The United States Used To Celebrate George Washington’s Birthday
Now It Is Ignored
How We Stopped Honoring One Of The Greatest Americans
The Life of George Washington Harper’s Weekly February 27, 1864
Growing up in the seventies, we didn’t get a “winter break” at school in mid-February for a full week. School in February was closed on two days: February 12 for celebrating Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday and February 22 for George Washington’s Birthday. That is if one of the days didn’t fall on a weekend!
Grammar school teachers made a big deal out of our two great presidents. We learned all about Washington and Lincoln leading up to the holidays. Washington secured our liberty and Lincoln preserved it. The two were somewhat distant historical figures, yet their importance was still to be held in some amount of reverence.
From the time he came to prominence during the Revolution, George Washington, The Father of our Country was practically worshiped by its citizens. This was true for nearly two hundred years, Washington was thought of and remembered as a great American. He was honored with place namings and later his own holiday.
That is until the late twentieth century when George Washington’s Birthday became the victim of bureaucrats.
How Washington’s Birthday Became A Holiday
George Washington’s Final Birthday 1799 Harper’s Weekly Feb. 25, 1899
George Washington’s Birthday was the first federal holiday to single out an individual’s birth date. Continue reading →
It is 1889 and we are looking west across Central Park on 72nd Street towards the Dakota flats apartment building. Unlike today, there are no bicycle lanes, rollerbladers or joggers on the roadway. And the park seems to be bereft of crowds. But the photograph, taken by the Albertype Co., does record a view in which all the elements seen are still present over 130 years later.
In 2021 there are still mounted police patrolling Central Park. Behind this mounted policeman a horse drawn carriage ambles crosstown.
The policeman observes the small group on the sidewalk who have stopped to gaze at the cameraman taking the picture. Continue reading →
New York Celebrates The Washington Centennial 1889
Horse drawn floats make their way through Union Square celebrating the Washington Centennial in New York City May 1, 1889 – illustration Harper’s Weekly May 11, 1889
For the first year and a half while President, George Washington was a New Yorker. Washington took the oath of office in New York City in 1789 and lived at 3 Cherry Street during his Presidency until 1790 when he moved to Philadelphia. Vice -President John Adams lived at 133 Broadway. Congress met in New York and the city was the center of the Federal government. Continue reading →
Listen To Alexander Graham Bell Demonstrate Early Recording Technology In 1885 & The Only Known Recording Of Someone Born In The 18th Century
You almost certainly have never heard the voice of somebody who lived in the 18th century, That means someone born between 1701- 1800. Well later in this story you will hear the only known recording of someone who was alive in that period. We’ll get to that later.
Why do you have to get a new iPhone or laptop every couple of years? Modern technology has been accelerating at an astonishing pace. Every few years computing power has been improving exponentially.
What was breakthrough technology like 135 years ago? Let’s return to the dawn of audio recording. Here is the voice of Alexander Graham Bell – yes, the man associated with the invention of the telephone, speaking on a recording cylinder.
What we just presented is the concluding part of a four minute recording made on April 15, 1885. In the recording Bell recites a not very exciting litany of numbers. Continue reading →
The Incomplete St. Patrick’s Cathedral, & A Glimpse of the Hotel Buckingham & 626 Fifth Avenue
This photograph looking east along 50th Street from Fifth Avenue was taken around 1880 by William T. Purviance.
626 5th Ave
The new St. Patrick’s Cathedral was formally opened on March 25, 1879. It would not be until 1888 that the spires were completed.To the left of the Cathedral in the background on 51st Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues is the boys section of the Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum. The girls section was across Madison Avenue to Fourth Avenue (Park Ave.).
A very small portion of the stately mansion and stone fence at 626 Fifth Avenue is visible on the northwest corner of 50th Street. This desirable corner residence belonged to Walter S. Gurnee, a millionaire and former Mayor of Chicago. Continue reading →
This charming etching by Frank M. Gregory (1848-1927) comes from a limited edition book Representative Etchings By Artists of To-day In America by Ripley Hitchcock, 1887, Fredrick A Stokes. The book included ten original etchings from noted artists of the day including Frederick S. Church, Robert F. Blum and Stephen Parrish.
We are looking north up Fifth Avenue. The busy street scene with horse drawn carriages, delivery wagons and pedestrians features a Broadway Squad policeman escorting a young girl across the street.
On the left is the Fifth Avenue Hotel and beyond that is Broadway. The obelisk in the center is the General William Worth Monument. Directly behind the monument on 25th Street, where Fifth Avenue and Broadway diverge is the building that housed The New York Club, an exclusive men’s club, in 1887. The building was originally built in 1865 as a hotel named Worth House. In 1888 a fire displaced the New York Club. The structure that now occupies that site, was built in 1918 and is the New York flagship store of Porcelanosa.
Madison Square Park is barely visible on the right.
Further up Fifth Avenue on the corner of 26th Street is the Brunswick Hotel. Diagonally opposite the Brunswick is the famous Delmonico’s restaurant.
The steeple in the distance on Fifth Avenue and 29th Street is the Marble Collegiate Church.
In 19th Century New York, You Had 24 Hours To Retrieve Your Lost Dog
Unclaimed Dogs Were Drowned In The East River
The dog catcher in New York City & the dogs fate- drowned in cages in the East River – illustration Harper’s Weekly
The Dog Dilemma
What happens today when animal shelters are filled to capacity? Sometimes cats and dogs are humanely euthanized, if there is such a thing as being humanely euthanized.
Canine population control in 19th century New York was much harsher. Beginning in 1855 a new and brutal method of putting down dogs was instituted – drowning.
Some editors and citizens actually attached the word “humane” to this new way of disposal.
Before that time, wandering dogs were considered pests and usually killed on the spot, in the street. The fear of rabies and mad dogs was used as a justification for the wanton killing.
The New York Times wrote, “One thing, however, is certain: dogs are useless animals in cities, and are a nuisance, independent of their habit of occasionally running mad; and the best dog law would be one that imposed so high a tax on the owners of curs that few people would care to keep them, and those who did would see to it that the animals did not run at large, muzzled or unmuzzled.” Continue reading →
In the late 19th century quite a number of people lost their heads in elevator accidents. Most press accounts of the incidents were thankfully short. But a few of the stories were described in sensationalist and sometimes sickening detail. The most common headline, “Decapitated By An Elevator,” as you’ll see, was not very original, Continue reading →
42nd Street Looking West From 3rd Avenue Towards Grand Central 1887
This albumen photograph was taken in 1887 by Willis Knowlton who had his studio at 335 Fourth Avenue.
Knowlton set up his camera from the 42nd Street station of the Third Avenue Elevated looking west towards Grand Central Station. If you’re thinking, “wait a minute, why are there elevated tracks running west towards Grand Central?” The answer is, this connecting spur was in place between 1878 and 1923, taking commuters to and from Grand Central directly to the Third Avenue El. As practical as the connection was for the 15,000 daily riders still using it in 1923, the city’s Board of Estimate ordered its removal in October of that year. The IRT complied and the spur was closed at midnight December 6, 1923 and the tracks and station were demolished soon afterwards.
A little about the buildings seen in this photograph. Running along the northern (right) portion of 42nd Street at 145-147 East 42nd Continue reading →
We are looking north from Ann Street up towards Broadway (left) and Park Row (right).
The scene is typical of an average day in 1880s New York. We can see several trolleys at rest either having completed their runs or about to start them. Several delivery carts are scattered about nearby. A police officer stands in the middle of Broadway keeping an eye on things. A horse drawn hansom coach and driver are prominent in the foreground. Businessmen make their way about the city, many walking on the Belgian block street rather than the sidewalks. Telegraph poles and wires criss-cross Park Row and Broadway.
The hub of all this activity is the main branch of the New York Post Office, designed by Alfred B. Mullett and opened to the public on Sunday, August 29, 1875. Between 8 a.m and 8 p.m. it was estimated that between 20 – 30,000 people wandered into the new building. They passed slowly through its corridors gawking at the shiny new post office lock boxes, looking into delivery windows and buttonholing anybody who looked like an employee to ask questions.
Architecturally inspired by the French Renaissance style, the building proved to be wildly unpopular from the get go. Among the chief complaints about the Post Office was that it was ugly.